The Justice Department Has Had It with Sheriff Joe

The Justice Department has been threatening since at least December to sue Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for civil rights violations against Latinos if he and his officers didn't clean up their act, and on Thursday the feds finally did. The best early reporting on the suit comes from Talking Points Memo's Ryan J. Reilly who quotes from the complaint which make Sheriff Joe and his deputies sound like a pack of jingoists:

DOJ’s suit, filed in the District of Arizona, accuses jail officials of referring to Latinos as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.” The suit says Arpaio “voiced his biased opinion of Latinos and Latino culture” in a book he coauthored in 2008.

“Arpaio singles out Mexicans and Latinos as different from all other immigrant groups in America,” the complaint says. “For example, Arpaio states that Latinos maintain ‘language [,] customs [and] beliefs separate from the mainstream,’ and are trying to “reconquest” American soil through migration to the United States.

Reuters also has some thorough early reporting, including quotes from Arpaio's statement responding to the DOJ charge: "I do not tolerate racist attitudes or behaviors. We at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office do not foster a 'culture of cruelty." There's also more in the Reuters report from the suit's allegations:

"Latinos in Maricopa County are frequently stopped, detained, and arrested on the basis of race, color or national origin," the suit said. "In addition, defendants MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office) and Arpaio pursue a pattern or practice of illegal retaliation against their perceived critics by subjecting them to baseless criminal action, unfounded civil lawsuits or meritless administrative actions."

Arpaio has always been an outspoken critic of easing immigration policy, and he's a big-time birther, both of which has endeared him to the Newsmax crowd. But the Justice Department sees a problem in the apparent racial profiling it found in his department, and has been trying to force him to change its practices through negotiations since its report was released in December. Last month, the department said Arpaio was negotiating in bad faith, which meant the only alternative was the lawsuit, which it has now finally filed.

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Update (3:10 p.m. EDT): The full complaint is available for your perusal at the Justice Department's website, if you're interested.